Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kiwi Update (Feb. 26, 2002)

This is another installment in the series: 'Round the world, revisited. I sent this email on Feb 26, 2002 from New Zealand during our 6 month journey.

Howdy, y'all.

Before a summary of our recent travels, here's some
things we've noted about New Zealand.

1. Highways. There's not a single road in this country
which is straight or flat for more than about half a
kilometer, and they allow passing on 2-lane roads
around blind curves and hills. They also have nice
signs like "2 fatalities this month :-(" and my
favorite, "Dangerous drivers next 24 km".

2. It should be a requirement of all developed nations
that its citizens make a valiant attempt to keep
insects out of their homes. Not here, though. There
are horrible swarms of biting sandflies everywhere,
and everyone leaves windows wide open day and night.
No screens, either! The only screens we've found were
at the most basic 4-wall huts in the backcountry --
I'm talking 2 full days' hike to get there.

3. Plumbing. We've already talked about the toilets
(and thanks to the sharp folks who told us about the
half flush and full flush buttons). But separate
spigots for the hot and cold water? Makes it hard to
get warm water.

4. What do kiwis call a cooler (or ice chest)? A
"chilly bin".

5. What do kiwis call a small house or cottage? A
"bach". I asked if that's short for "bachelor pad" but
the guy I asked didn't know.

6. The weka bird. I like to call this thing a "chicken
duck". Looks like -- you guessed it --a cross between
a chicken and a duck. It's a native bird like the kiwi
but not as rare, and not nocturnal, either.

7. Genetic Engineering. Kiwis have taken a strong
stand against GE. It's everywhere: signs at farms
boast "GE free NZ" and much of the packaged food you
buy is clearly labeled "GE free".

And here's what we've been doing. Since our last
report, I caught a nice 18 inch rainbow trout on the
Tongariro river which we cooked for dinner. Caught a
few smaller rainbows there, too. From there, we drove
to Wellington, the nation's capital, where we toured
Parliament and watched a movie (they sell ice cream
and beer at the movies) to kill time before catching
the 1:30 am ferry to the south island. Once across, we
spent 2 days kayaking in Pelorus sound, which was
pretty remote and nice, but really windy -- we didn't
even have to paddle much for a few hours. We camped at
a bay which we had all to ourselves (except for a few
million sandflies - nasty little buggers) and even did
some paddling after dark, when the paddles cause the
"bio-luminescense" in the water to glow. Pretty cool.

Next we heard about an organization called Willing
Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF). Folks like us work a
half day on the farm in exchange for free room and
board. We needed a break from our adventure, so we
decided this would be a good way to settle down for a
few days and better meet some real kiwis. We stayed on
Tony Sparks' 10-acre farm on the west coast for 4
days. We herded cows, Amy shucked garlic, and we both
helped sand and varnish his interior walls. He's got a
4-year old daughter named Hana who was a lot of fun.
We also met his girlfriend and her 2 kids and heard
all about their soap opera lives in the small
community of a hundred or so people. We worked extra
one day so we could take a day off and go caving. We
hiked and rode inner tubes through a cave with a
stream running through it. The cave has tons of tiny
glow worms on its roof which glow like stars.

Next we went on a 5 day backcountry tramp. I attempted
to fish on the remote, upper Taipo river for 3 days,
but no luck here. Spotted a huge trout, probably 25
inches or more, but couldn't hook him, and then the
persistent rains every night made the water too murky
to spot any fish for the rest of the trip. Quite a
tough hike over unmarked trails, boulder-hopping up
and down river beds, and stream crossings. We used a
3-wire bridge, which is just that - 3 cables strung
across the river with V-shaped braces to stabilize it.
The 3-wire was probably 100 feet long. Also used a
cableway, which is a little cart hanging from a cable.
This thing was about 250 feet long and has a crank at
either side to get it across. Quite fun! At the end of
the trail, we hitched a ride back to our car (don't
worry, mom, I'm safe).

Since I had no luck fishing the river, I decided to
spend a few days at Lake Brunner and the surrounding
streams. More frustration for a day and half before I
finally landed a 22 inch brown trout from the lake at
sunset (using a woolly bugger for you flyfishers out
there). It might be the biggest fish I've ever caught.

From there, we traveled farther south on the west
coast to the tiny town of Okarito (no stores, no gas
station). We took a boat tour of the lagoon, learned
about the country's efforts to control the population
of the introduced possum and stoats, which kill kiwi
birds and destroy native forest. This is a great
little town. After we returned to the campground from
a few hours' hiking, we found a fresh-baked loaf of
bread waiting at our tent from the owner of the boat
tour company!

That's all for now. Tomorrow we do a full day of
hiking on Franz Joseph glacier.

Hope everyone is doing well back home.

--Brad and Amy

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